consider bardwell

LATE SPRING FARM HAPPENINGS

 

I think this goes down as the longest stretch without a new post on our blog since its inception. Life has been admittedly full and busy, maybe a bit more-so than seasons past. It's all been good timing, though, as our previous post about spending five hours in Quincy deserved a few weeks front and center. To those of you who felt touched, enjoyed the post, or reached out with words of love for our family and for Erica, thank you. I am positive that Erica's greatest hope is that we all experience, deeply in our hearts, connection with her. Now, onto what's been happening in farm land . . . 

Immediately following our visit to Boston, my mama, my sister, and her four children came to stay with Mark and I for several days. If you're wondering how eight humans did sharing our tiny house and all sleeping in one big room, the answer is: great! It was a true taste of our family commune dreams. I've oft wondered what a big family in a small house would be like; now I know. The kids loved the farm (especially the baby goats) so much that they refused to go anywhere else, so we didn't leave! Settling into a farm rhythm ended up being a gift. My sissy milked the goats with me while my mom got the kids dressed for the day. Mark would set out on farm chores and the kids would meander up to the kidding barn to cuddle the babies. After milking, all of us (including the kids) would herd the goats down to pasture, while my mom would head home to cook breakfast. The rest of the day would follow suit, with adventuring, farming, and mama cooking for all of us. I learned that children are happy as clams with huge puddles to jump in, cow bones to check out, and coloring pencils. A favorite anecdote of mine happened when my nephew jumped into such a big puddle that water poured into his rain boots. With tears quickly filling his eyes, someone told him that "wet socks are part of being a farm adventurer!" He smiled, jumped into another puddle that flooded his boots, and said, "see? totally ok!" Ah, the magic of children.

Other farm happenings include: awaiting the arrival of our bees, who will hopefully flourish in this valley of meadow flowers and organic pasture; closing the books on kidding season, and opening the books on pasturing the kids we're keeping on the farm; preparing for the pigs to farrow, which will reintroduce piglet mayhem; praising the return of our CSA and the best tasting vegetables our money can buy; foraging and cooking some morel mushrooms and eating endless ramps (wild leeks); moving the chickens in their movable coop every few days so they can do the good work of spreading nitrogen-rich manure around the fields; digging holes for building projects and fixing fence lines to keep the animals from escaping. Haymaking is about to start, and with that the farm officially gets thrown from Spring into Summer.

All of these photos were taken with our iPhones as part of our 'Photos From Afield' series.


—S

A SPRING WALKABOUT ON THE FARM

 

It's a new season. With bursting joy and a tangible sense of renewal, it is Spring. The Earth abounds in subtle and delicate growth. The buds are long from blossoming, yet they hold within themselves the promise of new life and bounty. 'Tis the season for taking notice. Spring is nuanced: less obvious than Summer, less grandiose than Autumn, more vibrant than Winter. Spring is an intensely hopeful time for us. The parallels between nature and our faith are too similar to not remark on. We just entered into the spiritual / liturgical season of Easter. In our spiritual lives, we have made it through the 40-day Lenten season, with its sacrifices and longing, and now experience the 50-day Easter season — punctuated with celebration, joy, hope. The celebration of new life rests deeply in our hearts.

Mark and I walked about the farm and its expansive fields, from the barns to the beaver dams (note the images of Mark standing on a  stupendous dam, and of beaver handiwork on a tree); from the chicken coop to the hay fields. The scents were unfamiliar, stronger. If I could have cuddled every animal separately, I might've. My mind rang out the words of Lewis Carroll's Jabberwocky, "O frabjous day! Callooh! Callay!" (For the inquisitive, "frabjous" is a word coined by L.C. that is suspected to be the blending of fairfabulous and joyous. It is also a poem that my nun sister has been reciting from memory since her youth + recently recited in a letter.)

May this season breathe new hope + wonder into you, and may your frabjous days be plentiful.


—S

THE FIRST KIDS

 

And just like that, Farmer Winter is over. The kids are here, arriving in a mess of legs, fluff, and tiny sounds that only a newborn can make. Half look like Franciscan monks, the other half like Lloyd Christmas. On the part of the farmers, we are smitten. Never mind the relative chaos it will be in four weeks time when we have hundreds of bucklings and doelings to care for. For now, these kids have brought life back onto the farm, and with it, renewed purpose. When you deliver a baby goat, you make sure it's breathing and then lay it in the hay next to the mama doe, who instinctively gets to cleaning the baby with her tongue. This moment is magic every time. It is a true privilege to observe animal birth—strong, natural, intuitive. 

With the arrival of Kidding Season, we begin our second lap as farmers. The sights, the sounds, the smells & textures are all familiar now: the weightlessness of a fresh-to-this-world kid sprawled out across your lap, bottle feeding; the mama's milk that drips from the corners of its mouth; the way its full belly feels when you squeeze it at the end of a feeding. Suddenly, memories of late winter & early spring, already a year ago, come flooding back as if the ensuing seasons were a mere blip on the radar. The life cycle is spinning on, yes—and it feels like magic. 

These long days & nights spent watching, waiting, and participating in a great bloom of life on this farm—on the eve of Spring, no less—are true gifts. We learned as much last year, and the first kids are a timely reminder. So we begin. Farewell, Farmer Winter. Hello, Kidding Season!


—M&S

FARMING | OUR BYGONE HERITAGE

 

My parents were, well, surprised when I told them that we were moving to Vermont to work as kidding interns on a goat farm this spring. It was a big decision closely tied to another, bigger one: the one where we bumped our wedding up from June to January, on five weeks notice, so we could honor our conviction of waiting for marriage before living together. Old-fashioned to some, counter-culture to others—a bit like farming in the twenty-first century. 

Three years ago, I was mucking my way through organic chemistry and a host of other science courses, and the long, long library shifts that accompanied. I was on my way to becoming a third-generation dentist, the de facto family profession. And in the twenty-one years of life preceding, never once did I consider the possibility of farming for a living. In my mind, farms were foreign places. How could I even become a farmer? Farming was not a part of my identity. What I failed to consider then is how farming is actually a very real part of my heritage. Yes, my papou was a dentist whose son (my uncle) followed in his footsteps. But go back one more generation and you will find a family living in the rural Peloponnesian village of Ziria, tending to their vineyards. My maternal grandmother grew up on a small homestead in Wisconsin where she picked strawberries during summer and went door-to-door selling them for twenty-five cents per quart. She had to quit when a neighboring farm undercut her, selling them for ten cents.

Many people have similar tales from the old family farm. Agriculture is at the root of our collective heritage as human beings. But as the sun has risen and fallen over the land—seasons passing,  years and generations rolling by—our farming population has become ever smaller while our cities expand upward and outward. As evidenced by my own upbringing, so many of us have become far removed from the land that sustains us. All is not lost, though.

Upon arriving at Consider Bardwell Farm, I was gripped—rather suddenly—by this overwhelming sense that I was doing exactly what I was supposed to be doing. This was in spite of the fact that our first three days were spent (literally) mucking a winter's worth of goat poop in the barn. Truth be told, I don't even mind the act of mucking! I have found joy in using my body, in working outside, in experiencing the elements. I have found greater joy, still, in raising animals who sustain us with their bodies, through the gifts of milk and meat, as they have for millennia. There I was, no experience, no immediate background in farming. Here I am, with some experience. But deeper than that: I feel this connection, through my work & way of life, to my ancestors. I feel rooted in the earth, and the ongoing game of give-and-take that agrarian societies have played with the earth throughout human history. I have come to feel the true presence of my farming heritage. 

This is all coming from someone who grew up in the suburbs of a major metropolitan area; who comes from a family that prizes academics, having generously sent all four children to a private school and on to college; who spent many a summer afternoon playing video games rather than helping his mom in her backyard vegetable garden. I may not fit the image of a prototypical farmer, but this is the point indeed. It is within all of us, because we all come from the same agricultural heritage, whether we know it or not.


—M